Book on Polish Holocaust 'exploitation' causes uproar

By Nissan Tzur, March 3, 2011
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Jan Gross’s book details how some Polish peasants dug up mass graves in search of gold

Jan Gross’s book details how some Polish peasants dug up mass graves in search of gold

A controversial new book which argues that some Poles gained financially from the plight of Jews during the Holocaust has sparked outrage in Poland and abroad.

Golden Harvest, the latest work by Jan Gross, a Polish-American historian and sociologist, makes the case that some rural Poles benefited from the Holocaust in various ways, including plundering mass graves and ferreting out Jews in exchange for rewards.

The book's cover photograph, taken near Treblinka, appears to show Polish peasants digging up human remains in a search for gold or other treasuries that the Nazis may have missed.

Last October, speaking to an audience at Yad Vashem, Mr Gross said: "The crops scattered in front of the group are skulls and bones. In this photograph we see peasants standing on top of a mound of ashes. These are the human ashes of 800,000 Jews who perished in gas chambers in Treblinka between July 1942 and October 1943."

The claim caused outrage in Poland several weeks before the publication of the book, and some groups announced they intended to launch a campaign against "the lies in the book".

Maciej Gablanowski of the Krakow-based publisher ZNAK, who edited Golden Harvest, says that the book will be launched in the city on March 10, with Mr Gross due to be present.

Mr Gablanowski describes the book as "very emotional and facing some disturbing truth and facts, as Mr Gross sees them". He says that having worked with Mr Gross before, he is used to receiving unpleasant emails and comments, from "simple antisemites on the one hand and professors who oppose Mr Gross's views on the other".

Mr Gablanowski added that an "email bombing" campaign that was launched by the right-wing Polish journalist Andrzej Kolakowski, who urged people aggrieved by what he called a "defamatory book against the Polish nation" to bombard the inboxes of ZNAK. In a letter addressed to ZNAK, Mr Kolakowski urges the publishing house not to take part in what he calls
"the lies of the Jewish sociologist".

Mr Gablanowski says that the first edition of the book will be published in Poland in a 50,000-copy run. He added that Princeton University, where Mr Gross's teaches, has already announced its intention to publish the book in English.

Mr Gablanowski said he did not know if the book would be published further afield, but he added: "Due to the huge interest of the world's media in Mr Gross's books, we believe that other countries will choose to translate it."

    Last updated: 2:20pm, March 3 2011